The end of what has been an incredibly challenging year is just around the corner and with it the deadline for the United Kingdom and the European Union to sign a trade deal is fast approaching. I am hopeful that a deal with be agreed but remain positive that the United Kingdom would also find opportunity under a no “trade” deal scenario.
State of play
It is important to remember that the UK left the EU on 31 January with a deal. The question since that time has been whether we could agree a deeper trading relationship on the lines of the free trade agreement the EU has with Canada, or whether we have a trading relationship that is based on the 2019 deal, without a free trade agreement and along the lines of Australia’s relationship with the EU.
That will mean the EU imposing its tariffs on us, and the UK imposing its tariffs on them. Unless of course we are continuing to try to negotiation a free trade deal after the deadline. In that case the WTO can allow both parties to continue to trade on tariff free terms while they continue.
Free Trade Agreements (FTAs)
FTAs can generate new trading opportunities for businesses of all sizes, in particular SMEs, across Devon and the wider country. FTAs can also bring about lower prices and greater choice for consumers and help create new and better jobs. The UK has already entered into an FTA with Japan and is negotiating with the USA, Australia and many more.
The Government has confirmed it wants to pursue accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), one of the largest free trade agreements in the world. It is a high-standards trade agreement between 11 countries in the Pacific region, which together constitute a market of 500 million people, covering over 13 per cent of world GDP.
UK trade with individual CPTPP countries is already worth more than £110 billion and joining the agreement could open even more opportunities for UK businesses and boost trade and investment.
UK Internal Market Bill
The UK Internal Market Bill is fundamentally about protecting the integrity of the United Kingdom. The Prime Minister made this clear when he introduced the Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill will support the provision of more powers for all parts of the UK and ensure that businesses can continue to trade seamlessly across the UK – just as they have done for hundreds of years. As we recover from the Coronavirus pandemic, it will also help to protect jobs and support our economic recovery.
With regard to the provisions on the Northern Ireland Protocol, you should know that the Protocol contains inconsistencies that the UK and EU had intended to resolve by the end of the year. We must deliver on our promises to the people of Northern Ireland and this Bill allows us to do so. If no action were taken, the default legal position would risk creating barriers to trade within the UK and could threaten the Union.
After listening to concerns in Parliament, the Government tabled an amendment to the Bill which would require the approval of Parliament before ministers could use the powers under sections 42, 43 and 45. This was approved by the House of Commons. The House of Lords recently voted to remove the provisions on the Northern Ireland Protocol but for the reasons mentioned above, I do not support the removal of these parts of the Bill
I am confident that we will prosper as an independent, sovereign, nation. We will have control over our borders, laws and fisheries and our economic and political independence will be restored.
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